9-1-1 Communications

The McLeod County Sheriff's Office Communications Center has been the central support for law enforcement since 1982. In 2012, the center was renovated to direct the efforts of law enforcement and monitor activity anywhere within the 503 square miles of McLeod County.

In addition to radio and telephone communications, the 9-1-1 Center is connected with the State of Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Criminal Justice Information Network, and the National Crime Information Center network. These networks provide criminal justice information to and from all sheriffs' departments, police departments, federal and state agencies in the United States, U.S. territories and Canada.  

The Communications Center is supervised by Communications Sergeant Jen Otto; the staff includes 10 full time and five part time Communications Officers. Since emergency communications is a 24 hour, 7 days a week operation, the Communications Officers work a rotating day off schedule. This includes working nights, weekends, and holidays. 

Departments Served
City of Brownton Police, Fire, and First Responders
City of Buffalo Lake Ambulance (Renville County)
City of Glencoe Police, Fire, and First Responders
City of Hutchinson Police, Fire, and First Responders
City of Lester Prairie Police, Fire, and First Responders
City of New Auburn Fire, and First Responders (Sibley County)
City of Plato Fire, and First Responders
City of Silver Lake Fire, First Responders, and Ambulance
City of Stewart Fire, and First Responders
City of Winsted Police, Fire, and First Responders
Allina Health Ambulance - Glencoe
Allina Health Ambulance - Hutchinson

When Should I Call 9-1-1?
Call 9-1-1 when you need direct emergency access to police, fire, ambulance, or rescue personnel/medical assistance.

In An Emergency
Call 9-1-1 to report a crime in progress; a fire; a serious illness or injury; or any situation requiring an immediate response of the law enforcement, fire or ambulance services.

  • Call 9-1-1 first in all emergency situations.
  • Do not call family members or friends BEFORE calling 9-1-1 in an emergency.
  • Do not attempt to transport a seriously ill or injured person.
  • Emergency services can often dispatch qualified emergency assistance much faster and safer than other methods. 
  • Stay on the phone and answer all of the questions. Do not hang up until told to do so. Help is often started while you are speaking.

What the 9-1-1 Communications Officer Needs to Know
When calling during an emergency, speak slowly and clearly. Try to stay calm.

The dispatcher will ask many questions including:
  • The address/location where help is needed
  • The nature of the problem
  • Your name
  • A phone number where you can be reached
In a Non-Emergency Situation
The non-emergency phone number for the Communications Center and the Sheriff's Office is 320-864-3134. This number is available for when you have a less threatening situation which requires a non-emergency response from police, fire or ambulance such as noise/parking/traffic complaints; asking for directions, checking on road conditions. This line is answered by the same 9-1-1 Communications Officers. Your call will be put on hold if other emergencies are occurring. Please be patient.

Unintentional 9-1-1 Calls
Many false calls are generated to 9-1-1 due to cell phones being auto programmed or pre-programmed with a one button emergency feature to dial 9-1-1.

Do Not Hang Up
It is rare to be able to hang up a phone before it reaches the 9-1-1 network. Therefore, your misdialed call will likely reach the 9-1-1 center even when you end the call. If you realize you have accidentally called 9-1-1, please stay on the line until the 9-1-1 dispatcher answers. 9-1-1 Dispatchers are required to call back all numbers that call 9-1-1 and hang up. You will save the dispatcher several valuable minutes by explaining that you accidentally dialed the wrong number rather than the dispatcher having to call you back to see if there's a problem.

What Can You Do to Prevent Accidental 9-1-1 Calls?
  • Disable Emergency Buttons. Check your user manual or contact your service provider to find out if your wireless phone has a pre-programmed emergency 9-1-1 button. If it does, find out how to disable it or lock it.
  • Lock Your Keypad. Most wireless phones have a feature that locks or disables the keypad to prevent accidental dialing. Not only does it prevent accidental dialing, but it also prevents unwanted users access to your phone.
Wireless 9-1-1: Know Your Location 
More than 70% of 9-1-1 calls are made from wireless phones. 9-1-1 can be dialed from any wireless phone that has power. The phone does not need to have an active wireless service program to call 9-1-1.

Although wireless phones provide a reliable connection to 9-1-1 dispatchers, callers should be aware of the following:

  • Depending upon the location, the call will be answered by the local dispatch center such as the McLeod County 9-1-1 Communications Center, or by the Minnesota State Patrol dispatch center. The Communications Officer will determine if your situation requires the call to be transferred.
  • Because cell phones calls are transmitted from the nearest cell phone tower, the dispatcher may not receive your name and specific location on the 9-1-1 screen when you call. Depending upon the age of your phone and grade of service, the location information may or may not be available. The dispatcher will need to confirm your exact location.
Be Prepared
Be prepared to provide the following:
  • The exact address of the emergency or
  • The city you are in
  • The name of the road you are on
  • Cross streets
  • Major buildings
  • Mile marker signs
  • Your wireless phone number, including area code
  • Your name
Having location information will assist 9-1-1 dispatchers in determining your location.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and 9-1-1
Many consumers are subscribing to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services for their telephone needs. Unlike traditional wire-line and wireless services, VoIP calls are routed over the Internet to connect with the public service telephone networks. These calls present unique challenges to the 9-1-1 system because the user account information is not validated in the same manner as wire-line and wireless phones. Therefore, address information may not conform to 9-1-1 standards and not be reported to the 9-1-1 dispatcher. Secondly, because VoIP devices can travel with the customer, a 9-1-1 call can easily be delivered to the wrong 9-1-1 center. For example, a Glencoe VoIP subscriber calling 9-1-1 from Orlando with a VoIP device may be routed to the McLeod County 9-1-1 Communications Center in Minnesota based upon the account information associated with the device. This is the reason the dispatcher must validate the information with the caller and ask the questions that they do, to verify where the emergency is actually occurring.

Although VoIP providers and regulatory bodies are working to eliminate these problems, users should be aware and be prepared to give their exact location or describe their location while calling 9-1-1.

Texting 9-1-1
TEXT-to-911: CALL if you can, TEXT if you can't call.

When Should Text-to-911 be Used?
  • The reporting party cannot speak while a crime is in progress.
  • The reporting party must remain quiet to stay safe.
  • If speaking may cause harm, such as in a home invasion, domestic violence, or human trafficking situation.
  • If the reporting party encounters a suicidal or agitated person.
  • If peer pressure is strong.
  • If the reporting party is deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or has a speech impairment. 
How to Text 9-1-1
  • Enter the numbers 911 in the "To" field.
  • Text message should include your location and type of emergency.
  • Send the message.
  • Be ready to answer questions and follow instructions.
  • Use simple words.
  • Do not use abbreviations, emojis, pictures or slang.  (BRB, IDK, THX, 2day and BTW, for example)
  • Do not text and drive.
  • It is a crime to text 911 with a false report.  If you accidently send a text to 911, send another text or place a call to let the dispatcher know that there is no emergency.
What Dispatchers Need to Know
  • Dispatchers prefer to speak with reporting parties whenever possible.
  • Upon receiving a text, dispatchers will ask if they can call the reporting party.
  • People who are deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing, or have a speech impairment should inform the dispatcher right away.
  • Be ready to give the dispatcher your location.
  • Be ready to describe the type of emergency.
Text-to-911 Did You Know?  Challenges and Limitations
  • Location is not as accurate with text as it can be with a call.
  • Be ready to give an address or describe your location. 
  • Do not text and drive.
  • It is a crime to text 911 with a false report.
911 dispatchers will process texts with the same priority as voice calls.  However, public safety response time may be lengthened due to the time it takes for a text message to be typed and transmitted between a dispatcher and a reporting party.  There is no way to guarantee the speed of delivery for texts to 911.

  • Location is not as accurate with text as it can be with a call.
  • If customers are outside of Minnesota or along a neighboring border, texts to 911 may not be received by a dispatcher.
  • Texts to 911 will get a bounce back if a customer is roaming.
  • Wireless customers must have mobile phones that are capable of sending text messages.
  • Usual charges will apply to texts made to 911.
  • Texts to 911 have the same 160 character limit as other text messages.
  • Texts to 911 can get out of order or may not be received at all.
  • There is currently no language translation service for texts to 911.

Sign up for the latest news and updates

Learn More